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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Over There: The Duality of War 

It is difficult to imagine what Fox is up to: If they think their new series on FX “Over There” is a recruiting tool, I believe they are mistaken. If they think it will fill impressionable young minds with that gung ho spirit of patriotic fervor, they will surely be disappointed. Only the psychopathic would find this depiction of war attractive.

There is a lot wrong with Steven Bochco’s Iraq war series. Virtually everyone in the platoon is young and attractive, belying the fact that so many of the soldiers in this war are drawn from the Guard and Reserves. Check the latest casualty list: It is no longer an army of high school graduates, the young and naïve. There is probably more bravado and thoughtful reflection than reality allows but there is also something beneath the surface of this Hollywood production that strikes deep and rings true.

What comes across in “Over There” is a potent message concerning the duality of war, the same message that Stanley Kubrick delivered in the Vietnam classic “Full Metal Jacket.” It is the acknowledgment that no matter where the individual begins in philosophy, values and character, the experience of war will force every soldier to confront internal demons. In war, only a soldier’s duty is clear and even that may be called into question. It is the realization that the soldier on the far side of the field is not fundamentally different than the soldier on the near side. It is the understanding that words like democracy, insurgency, terrorist, freedom, occupation, liberation, good and evil have very little meaning in the line of fire. It is the reality that war is hell and no one escapes unscathed.

It will be interesting to see where the series goes from its beginning, whether it will temper the antiwar portion of the equation that compels the viewer to confront a moral dilemma. If it remains true and gains a growing audience, Fox will confront its own dilemma: Whether to kill a rare program with critical and popular appeal or allow it to raise the very questions its news division has fought so long and hard to deny.

If it lives up to its pilot, “Over There” has the power to reach many American hearts and minds. When both are engaged in sufficient numbers, the end of the occupation will be at hand.

Jazz.

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